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Percept Mot Skills. 1997 Aug;85(1):247-56.

Alexithymia in patients with eating disorders: an investigation using a new projective technique.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, Lund University, Sweden.


The concept of alexithymia was scrutinized in a group of female patients with eating disorders: 15 anorectics and 13 bulimics (mean age of 27 yr.), plus a control group of 21 (mean age 38 yr.). Subjects were interviewed and tested. In the main test an ambiguous face was flashed briefly on a screen opposite the viewer who had to describe her impressions. To enhance the ego-involvement, subliminal words (I, I ILL, I WELL) were presented before each exposure. Contrary to expectations the present patients used more emotional words than controls. Instead, they employed alternative strategies to avoid empathizing. The results were interpreted as indicating a pronounced incapacity for emotional understanding.

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